SOUTH BEND — Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Thursday announced that federal regulators have told the city it has decided to reinstate the city’s “quiet zone” for trains, and the quiet will return as soon as some documents are signed in Washington.
“They assure us an approval letter is in the works but with any federal process, it’s not real until it’s in writing, so that’s what we’re waiting for from the FRA,” Buttigieg said.
The Federal Railroad Administration has declined to confirm that assertion when contacted by The Tribune, saying only that the city’s request was “still under review.”
The horns have been blowing since July 22, after the FRA notified railroads that the city had “deficiencies” in safety measures at crossings.
Across social media, residents have complained about the loud train horns keeping them awake at night, and are demanding accountability. How did the city lose a quiet zone status it had enjoyed for more than 40 years?
Buttigieg, in office since 2012, called the horn blowing a “huge quality of life issue,” and said his administration believes it has complied with federal rules all along. When asked to elaborate on that compliance, he deferred to his public works director, Eric Horvath.
Horvath wasn’t working for the city during much of the history, but over the past two months, he and his staff have tried to piece together what has happened by researching documents and correspondence between the city and the federal agency.
Under a federal rule that took effect in 2005, in order for the FRA to approve a community’s request for a quiet zone, the community must install safety measures at and/or near crossings that go beyond the standard measures of flashing lights, gates and cross-buck signs. Examples include channelization medians in front of crossing gates, and four-quadrant gates — both of which aim to deter motorists from attempting to cross the tracks while the gates are down, before an oncoming train arrives.